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What I Thought My Gift Said... And What My Husband Really Thought

Either my husband is the hardest person on the planet to shop for (it's probably this), or my gifts give off the vibe of being an assignment.
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For by Jenna Briand

We all aim to excel at this gift-giving thing right, right?

Every year, I think I've finally mastered it for my husband, only to realize -- through a combination of his lukewarm reactions and, more definitively, the gift remaining unopened months later -- that I have once again failed.

I figure it's one of two things: Either my husband is the hardest person on the planet to shop for (it's probably this), or my gifts give off the vibe of being an assignment. I should mention that my husband has never actually complained about these gifts out loud (OK, once, because I gave him the same shirt two years in a row). But the evidence is strong, and I know what he's thinking.

In fact, here's how the inner dialogue has gone down for the last three years.

2010: The Yoga Mat

Manduka Big, $76,

What I thought this gift said: Yoga! It's so good for you! And, I know you didn't notice, but I actually heard you talking to John, the neighbor, about how he's been doing Iyengar. And I am 100% sure I heard you say, "I've really got to give it a try." So I mentally filed that information away months ago, and thoughtfully proceeded to research and purchase for you not just a yoga mat, but the ROLLS ROYCE OF YOGA MATS; it's sturdy, it's black and it's extra long to fit your 6'4" frame. You are going to love it. Love. It.

What he thought: Great. You still think I'm out of shape. You bought me that weight set a few years ago, which I never really used, and now you're trying to push your bendy-chanty yoga agenda on me. By the way, I'm impressed that John, the neighbor, has embraced yoga as his preferred fitness choice -- I was really just being polite that day and pretended to be interested. I have little-to-no interest in attempting to touch my toes for 90 minutes while a bunch of Lulu Lemon-clad women do backbends and headstands with abandon. Thanks, though, I guess I could use it for doing sit-ups at home.

Fate of the gift: It's now mine.

2011: The Tortilla Kit

Cucina Pro, $80,

What I thought this gift said: You love to cook, babe, and this year you've discovered "Mexican." Not just everyday Mexican, of course, that's not your style -- but gourmet Mexican. You've masterfully unearthed spices online from Oaxacan villages and discovered a whole new breed of bitter greens at that market on Venice Blvd., where true Mexican chefs shop! Yet, amidst all this South-of-the-border exultance, you're still using store-bought tortillas. I know you'd love to make your own, since you love to do everything the harder better and more delicious way. Plus, this gift is about adding calories, not burning them, so there is absolutely no way you will think I have a hidden health agenda. You will truly love this fancy tortilla press and the round plastic tortilla warmer that goes with it -- just like the ones they have in all the restaurants -- and you'll see I was totally paying attention. Yum!

What he thought: I was planning to pick one of these up next week at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I guess you saved me a trip. You're right, of course, I would prefer to make homemade tortillas and I'm happy to make them for you next time I whip up that Mexican stew you seemed to like so much and request so frequently. So I guess this gift, when you really think of it, is actually for you! You know what would have been really great? Sneakily getting Maria's grandmother's secret Carnitas recipe -- I think she said she'd cough it up in exchange for your help with her computer. But that's cool, maybe we can ask her for it another time. This is great. Really. Do they make these tortilla warmers in any color but brown?

The fate of the gift: Used, but now at the far back of a kitchen cupboard. He's moved on to Szechuan.

2012: The Arduino Kit

MakerShed v3.0, $65,

What I thought this gift said: Total goddamn score! You literally asked me for this one, point blank. To my face. Plus, it's on page 72 of your MAKE magazine, with the price and the URL circled, and the page dramatically dog-eared for my convenience. You like tinkering and building things, and are one of the few people I know who can even pronounce "Arduino." So there is no f-ing way I can screw this up.

What he thought: Well, that was predictable. Where's the creativity, babe? I do like it though, obviously, so thanks. But you know what I now realize? This small kit is symbolic of the fact that I need a gigantic, functional workspace. To build real things, like chairs and tables and speakers. I don't think I can be truly happy in life until this happens.

The fate of this gift: Never opened. $3,000 garage renovation in progress.

2013: Work in Progress

Ideas, anyone?

Jenna Briand is a writer, editor and digital strategist who's been at it all since the 90's. She resides happily in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. Jenna is making an effort to tweet more frequently @jennabriand.

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